American Association for Cancer Research

AACR in the News

Hispanic Breast Cancer Survivors' Perception of Health Affected by English-language Proficiency


October 28, 2012

Bookmark and Share

  • Limited proficiency in English was linked to lower personal perception of health.
  • Effect was absent in those able to manage their illness.
  • Higher “spiritual well-being” weakened the impact of language proficiency.
SAN DIEGO — Hispanic breast cancer survivors who considered their English-language proficiency as limited were less likely to rate their own health as good, very good or excellent, according to data presented at the Fifth AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities, held here Oct. 27-30, 2012. However, the association between English-language proficiency and self-rated health was not found in women who had higher spiritual well-being, as measured by their sense of peace or meaning.

Self-rated health is a single-item question that asks people to rate their health on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent, according to the researchers.

“Even though it is a single-item question, in large epidemiological studies of mostly non-Hispanic white participants, it has been shown to be highly predictive of morbidity and mortality in chronic disease,” said Maria Garcia-Jimenez, a student at the University of California Berkeley/University of California San Francisco Joint Medical Program.

To examine the association between various acculturation measures, particularly English-language proficiency, and self-rated health, Garcia-Jimenez and colleagues conducted a secondary analysis of data from a telephone survey of 330 breast cancer survivors who identified themselves as Hispanic.

The average age of the women surveyed was 58.3 years. Nearly all of the women had been diagnosed with breast cancer within the past five years. About 40 percent of the women reported speaking English not at all, poorly or fairly well.

About 25 percent of the women self-rated their health as poor or fair. Those women who were proficient in English were more than twice as likely to rank their health as good, very good or excellent compared with women with limited English-language proficiency.
The researchers then evaluated whether cancer “self-efficacy,” or an individual’s perception of their ability to manage the repercussions of their disease, attenuated these findings.

“We found that if women had greater cancer self-efficacy, the effect of language on self-rated health was eliminated,” Garcia-Jimenez said. “Regardless of their language ability, having a high cancer self-efficacy was associated with higher self-rated health.”

In addition, researchers examined two elements of spiritual well-being, faith and sense of peace/meaning, and their effects on self-rated health. Data indicated that faith was not associated with English-language proficiency or self-rated health, but the sense of peace/meaning was highly associated with self-rated health, according to Garcia-Jimenez.

# # #

Follow the AACR on Twitter: @aacr #aacr
Follow the AACR on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aacr.org

About the American Association for Cancer Research
Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes seven peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer.

For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.

Media Contact:
Jeremy Moore
(215) 446-7109
Jeremy.Moore@aacr.org
In San Diego, Oct. 27-30:
(619) 358-6870